Conquering the 'experiencing self'

“Are you living a lie?”

This is the provocative title of a recent online article. The other questions raised in the article are: “Do you say one thing and do another?” “How inconsistent are you?”

While our honest answers to these questions may embarrass us, I believe it is a good idea to try to answer them honestly. In my case, I certainly cannot straightly give negative answers to any of them.
Ben (C) Fletcher, the writer of the article, and the new book called Flex: Do Something Different which he co-authors with Karen J. Pine, tries to explain the situation of someone like me with a neat model. According to Fletcher, people do not always act according to their conscious thoughts and their spoken words as there are also unconscious forces which drive our behaviours. His model to explain this sees people in terms of their reflective self and their experiencing self. Here are the main ideas:
  • The reflecting self is our concept of ourselves, our memories and the way we see, and want to see, ourselves in the past and future.
  • The experiencing self is our on-line experience as it happens. It includes how we automatically perceive, feel and think at the time we are doing something. It's where our habits reside.
  • The way we are is determined by the interaction between the two selves.
  • The experiencing self, being influenced by automatic triggers and the demands for gratification, always have the upper hand in determining what we think and do.
  • Difficulties arise when the two selves are at odds with each other.

Fletcher calls the gulf between the reflective self and the experiencing self incoherence. Narrowing this gulf is the key to being comfortable with ourselves and being successful.

Doing something different is the way to narrow the gulf. Small new behaviours, Fletcher proposes, affect both elements of the self and help to bring them into alignment.

If we are to critically examine our life, we may well see that it is largely governed by powerful habits, many of which may not be healthy. Maybe, as Fletcher suggests, doing something different will help us break the spell.

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